“I (am) the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, 21and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son.” – Rev. 21:6-7
GARY – Since 1984, diocesan clergymen have gathered to pray for, and lift up the memory of faithful sons who have served as priests and deacons and have gone to their reward. On Nov. 3, more than three dozen priests and deacons joined Bishop Robert J. McClory at the annual Memorial Mass for the Deceased Clergy of the Diocese of Gary at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels.
Bishop McClory presided at the liturgy, which featured the reading of a necrology of the approximately 200 priests and more than three dozen deacons who have passed away after serving “with a passion for saving souls.”
A special guest from Haiti, the Most Reverend Quesnel Alphonse, bishop of Fort Liberté, concelebrated at the Mass. Mourning the loss of Bishop Dale J. Melczek, who passed away on Aug. 25, Bishop McClory paid special tribute to the late leader, who fostered a prayerful and charitable connection with the Church in the Caribbean country.
After Father Dominic Bertino, senior priest, sang the names of deceased priests and deacons, the diocesan choir responded with “Lord, have mercy.” The Liturgy of the Word continued with readings including from Rev. 21.
In his homily, Bishop McClory spoke of recently misplacing his cell phone, only to get an assist from a tablet app, which allowed the phone to start chirping and be located. “I think I would still be there tearing the house apart if I wouldn’t have been able to find it,” he explained to the clergy assembled in the sanctuary.
“(Jesus) said who if he lost a coin or a sheep wouldn’t just be consumed with trying to find it, and at the same time, rejoicing upon discovering and returning the coin or sheep to its rightful place,” Bishop McClory said.
The bishop continued, “The passages remind us, to the extent that we seek to imitate Christ, to have that same passion or hunger for souls, to thirst for the souls that need to come into contact with Jesus. So, our desire to share the Good News is focused not just on proclamation but on its reception by those who need to hear the love of Jesus.”
At the passing of Bishop Melczek, Bishop McClory said his thoughts went to his own eternal destiny.
“Here’s a bishop who served with fidelity, and his time on this earth has now come to a close,” Bishop McClory said about the third bishop of Gary. “It prompted me to ask, ‘Lord, when the time comes for me to meet you … how will I be prepared to receive your mercy? Am I living the life now that would make me look forward to that encounter?’”
Before offering another prayer for the dearly departed, Bishop McClory reminded the clergy present that God continues to renew his Church: “Behold I make all things new,” he read from the Apocalypse.
“May those who have gone before us experience that mercy … eternal rest grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them,” Bishop McClory concluded.
Franciscan Father Juan de la Cruz Turcios, associate pastor at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels, Ss. Monica and Luke and St. Joseph the Worker said despite being a part of the Gary diocese for just a couple years, he feels a solidarity with his brother clergymen.
Being present at the memorial Mass is a chance to help the late priests and deacons to finish what they started, and is “an invitation to honor their life, and what they have done; they are an example because they worked hard and give life to the Church,” Father Turcios said.
Father Bertino credited the second bishop of Gary Norbert F. Gaughan for initiating the memorial Mass for deceased clergy. “This is one of the blessings he gave to the diocese.”
“In a sense, it's a good way to remember them; oftentimes when you think about it once they pass on to eternity, they’re kind of forgotten,’ said Father Bertino. “(I pray) the daily necrology, and I try to pay attention to that.”
Deacon Michael Booth, who was ordained in June, was also prompted by the memorial remembrance to think about his own mortality.
“I’m thinking that one day my name will be announced here,” said Deacon Booth of St. Bridget, Hobart. “So, it really puts things into perspective: What will it be like when I’m called from this life to the next? And I trust in the mercy of God (regarding) the things I’ve done and the things I’ve left undone.”
Some clergy present pledged to practice what they preached about praying for others.
“It’s been my practice on All Souls Day in the evening, when things are a little quiet (to) pray Rosaries for all the deceased people that I can still remember – family, priests, religious, parishioners,” said Father Terrence Bennis, pastor of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, North Judson, and All Saints, San Pierre.
“The burden is trying to remember all their names. But the Holy Spirit helps – sometimes it’s a delayed reaction,” Father Bennis said.